New MexiCon 2017 Debrief

My first time going to New MexiCon after wanting to go for a couple years. I’d heard good things and I know a lot of people that go and are involved in running the con. The timing finally worked out so I could go this year.

The Con

The con overall was great. Small (max attendance somewhere around mid-high 70s, I think). Things seemed well-run. Even knowing some behind-the-scenes stuff that didn’t go perfectly, from an attendee’s perspective it all felt really smooth. It uses an interesting priority system to get into games. No pre-registering, they do a “muster” where GMs pitch what they want to run and players try to get in to what they want to play based on the aforementioned priority system. The first slot was a little clunky, but it got smoothed out and it went pretty smoothly after that. I can’t imagine the current system working for more than 100 people or so, but it works for now.

Long story short: I had a great time, and this is definitely on my list of cons to try to get to every year.

The Games

So many games! Five slots of gaming as well as a few “off-the-books” games.

Urban Shadows

Not a new one, but still one of my favorite PbtA games. Urban fantasy is a great genre and there’s a lot of room to do interesting things there. I ended up trying The Hunter (Buffy-esque playbook). Not my favorite playbook I tried. It just wasn’t quite for me. But I still had a great time.

The highlight was definitely when the Tainted came to the Fae and said “Do this for me, you owe me.” And the Fae used a move about not honoring debts and the end result was not only did the Fae no longer owe the Tainted, but now the Tainted owed the Fae more than they did before. Absolutely brilliant and definitely the most Fae thing I can possibly imagine happening.

Sagas of the Icelanders

Again, not new. I’d played once before; possibly before it was officially published I’m not entirely sure. Anyway the GM has a method down cold (see what I did there) for running Sagas and it made the game absolutely sing.

Basically you play characters in a viking settlement/community and the game sets things up to be absolutely rife with drama. The society is very gendered in how things are done. Men have these roles and women have these. That’s something for a man to do while this is something only women do. And the moves (another PbtA hack) reflect that. There are some moves that only men can do and some that only women can do. It reinforces the societal views in a really brilliant way.

The highlight was probably when the huscarl got in a shouting match with his best friend’s brother. The brother kept questioning the huscarl’s honor until the huscarl just couldn’t take it anymore and raged out a bit with every intention of killing the brother. But lost in his bloodlust the huscarl ended up falling to the brother’s blade. Hot!

Wizards aren’t Gentlemen (What Ho World)

This is a card game somewhat based on Fiasco & Apocalypse World. There was an original version called “What Ho, World!” that has more of a Victorian/regency vibe to it. We went with the version about bizarre wizards.

We were in a time crunch so we ended up only having a few scenes, but I liked what I saw. Pre-made characters. Some choices for how each character can overcome challenges. As well as relationships that you all define with one another. The game focuses working towards goals and eventually achieving those goals through (usually) farcical means.

Skeletons

This has been on my list of games to play for a while. It’s a very freeformy rpg and I like the premise. The players are skeletal guardians of a tomb. You awaken when the tomb is being invaded otherwise you sleep away the time — it could be days, it could be years. Or eons. Mechanically, between periods of being awake and defending the tomb the GM/facilitator turns the lights off as the guardians “sleep”. Could be a few seconds or up to a few minutes.

The game starts with sketching out a tomb, which is pretty neat. I’m a fan of games with a map-drawing component (no matter that I’m terrible at drawing). Characters have a sort of playbook named after something distinctive: I was the Headless. The sheets also have questions which can be answered throughout the game. Some are really interesting some seemed to fall pretty flat with the group. And as time passes the tomb itself can change.

Fun game. I wasn’t entirely sold on it, but I had a good time. Part of me suspects that some of the places where the game fell flat could have been due to poor explanation on the GM’s part or poor understanding on the players’ part.

Highlight for me was (as the Headless which had a priest vibe to it) luring a family of refugees into a hidden room with enchanted jewels where my magic got them to stab their eyes with the jewels and go out into the world to be prophets for my religion.

Blades in the Dark

Second time getting to play Blades, but the first time with the final (no for real, y’all) ruleset. I’m already a fan of the game, but this session really sang for me. The GM presented the rules and the world in a way that hadn’t been presented to me before and a lot of things just kind of clicked. I’m even more excited about the game than I was before.

The basic premise is the players are part of a gang of thieves of some sort. The setting has a bit of a steampunk vibe, but with ghosts and demons.

The secret sauce of Blades is definitely how jobs are undertaken. Unlike pretty much every other game that involves planning jobs the players in Blades don’t actually pre-plan very much. I’ve seen players in games like Shadowrun sit around for 2 hours trying to make the perfect plan only to have it immediately fall apart (because of course it will).

Instead, in Blades, you come up with some initial basics and then just jump right in. As you play you may find you need some particular equipment: “Oh, some rope would be useful right now.” Well, if rope is listed on your character sheet as an item you have access to then you mark it off and you have it with you, because you’re not an amateur and you knew you’d need it. And if you need something more specific “Oh, damn, we need Lady Whatshername’s key to get through this door.” Well, you can have a quick flashback and show how you already obtained said key. Ocean’s 11 style. It’s smooth and brilliant and lets you get right to the good stuff without getting bogged down in the details.

In the game I played a Hull, which is sort of like an automaton that houses your ghost. There’s a lot of fun options you get as a ghost-controlled machine. My favorite was having a compartment that someone could ride/hide in. Worked out well for us.

Inheritance

I once played this years ago in an earlier version. I’m so glad I got to play with the newly-published rule set.

It’s a freeform rpg (NOT A LARP) viking blood opera. The premise is a family patriarch has died and his family and another family with close ties (as well as a couple wildcard characters) come together to honor his memory and have his will read and discover his wishes for his belongings.

Of course, things are never that simple and things inevitably heat up. Both games I’ve played in have ended quite violently. With only a few characters surviving each time.

There’s only so much I can say about the game without giving away a lot and a lot of the really best stuff are secrets and such that come out in play. It’s a game that just really needs to be experienced.

Atlas Reckoning

A game still in playtesting. I hadn’t heard of it before this weekend (or maybe I had, it seemed vaguely familiar). Either way: basically Pacific Rim (insert whatever other giant mech/monster media of your choice) the rpg.

Each character plays a pilot (chosen from a number of different types of playbooks). And each set of two characters pilot a single mech.

And, of course, to pilot the mech the pilots have to sync. This is where it gets awesome. To simulate this the two pilots draw 5 cards. Then, without saying anything, they each pass 2 cards to the other (this is the only way they have to share information at this point), then they each play a card. The intent is to match numbers (for the best sync), but matched colors/suits is also good. No matching at all is a terrible synch. It’s really fucking brilliant! Because the longer you play the more you’ll sync with your fellow pilot and eventually the better you’ll get at syncing, because you’ll learn each others strategies for sharing information via the two cards! I can’t even explain how excited that makes me.

The other awesome part of syncing is that depending on the cards played you can ask the other pilot a question that they have to answer truthfully — they can’t lie, you’re in their brain!

You fight giant monsters, of course, which is fun. Cards are played, weapons used, etc etc. Then everyone gets a downtime scene. Those scenes happen in various settings (there’s a list of options). These scenes are a way to get some stress back as well as have some really great rp and interactions, which of course leads right into asking questions during the sync. It’s really fantastic.

I’m really looking forward to seeing a complete version. I was lucky and got to play in a game run by the author who I think said there’d be a Kickstarter for it at some point. I can’t wait!

Empyria Relictus

Even odds that I spelled this wrong. I never actually saw it written down only spoken aloud. Oh well. It’s still in playtest.

The premise is that the players are all teenagers in a village that came from a once great civilization. And now the players are going to set off into the unknown and hope to find other civilizations.

Gameplay centers around a player-created map (see, I love map-making stuff) that you explore as you play. There’s plenty of player drama built in (hooray teen angst & emotions). It’s mostly a pretty freeform scene structure. Conflicts arise which are adjudicated by one of the players (the game is GM-less); the players take turns taking on this role. From these characters can discover information, meet new people, or find interesting new objects.

It was pretty interesting. It didn’t super, super grab me, but it was also the last slot of the con and I was probably pretty low on energy. There’s an economy of tokens that get used in conflicts and you get for putting out certain kinds of details. Obtaining the tokens wasn’t entirely straight-forward. At one point someone got a token for doing a specific thing and at another point someone did the same sort of thing and didn’t get a token. The explanation for why wasn’t very clear.

But I think there’s something interesting there to be sure. I can cut a lot of slack to a playtest game. Who knows how much change it may go before being published in some way.

Space Wurm vs Moonicorn

Not actually part of the con, or really even off-the-books. This was after a road-trip back away from a con with my host’s home group. But worth talking about nonetheless.

First off. It’s, uh… kind of a weird fucking game. It’s a hack of Dungeon World, which after having played seems like an odd choice. I think being a straight Apocalypse World hack probably would have made more sense. But whatever.

It’s very much space fantasy with some really strange playbooks (two of them being the title of the game, of course). What I saw was pretty fun and interesting. And weird.

Coming into an existing game was a bit odd, but I appreciate everyone being willing to let a couple outsiders into their ongoing game just to get to play along and add their own bit of spice to the game.

The best part, for me, was playing a playbook called The Technician (not actually from SWvM, but from a different sci-fi hack of Dungeon World). The Technician is basically a wizard, but instead of spells, you have little robots that you build and operate. This got made even more awesome because in the setting for the game the group was playing in there are no real robots, but there is weird bio-tech body horror stuff (think Giger or Cronenberg). So instead of robots I had lots of creepy biotech things I’d made to do different things. Oh, also I took a move so that my “robots” were actually a part of my body and could be removed if I wished. So my character was a walking poster-child of body horror that could remove engineered pieces off of him if the occasion warranted. I got some good reactions out of that so I think I fit in pretty well for that session.

So, yeah, that was my extended New MexiCon experience. I had a great time and then I came home and tried to get as much sleep as I could before going back to work. A+ would do again.

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